I had a friend in university days that lived for merry-making. Each time this guy visited, we almost always ended the day at a bar, drinking through the night. On one occasion, the bar owner refused to sell more drinks because students aren’t supposed to spend money like this. It seemed like this dude had figured out his purpose in life; jollification.
But that was not all there was about him. This young man was a talented football player – what Americans call soccer. He was a star on the pitch and people loved his because of that. On many occasions, he received cash gifts from people who are entertained by his performance at the pitch. So from time to time, he had a bulk of cash to play with. Unfortunately, money doesn’t stay too long in the hands of this jolly good fellow. And he was not one to heed to advice.
Expectedly, his jolly lifestyle began to affect his prospect in football. He blew a lot of opportunities to further his football career. The last time I had of him, he was just getting by; trying to put his life together.
I can’t think about the impact of instant gratification versus delayed gratification without thinking about this guy. He is uncontrolled desire to feel good at the moment cost him a prospective career in the future. It is scientifically proven that your ability or inability to delay gratification affects your life’s outcome in ways you can’t imagine. In fact, where you are at this moment, is to a large extent a function of the degree to which you can delay gratification or not. In today’s video, I’m going to share with you the important difference between instant and delayed gratification, what the African American community in the United States will teach us about the long-term cost of instant gratification; and how to get better at delaying gratification. Before we get to it, be sure to subscribe to After School TV for more insightful videos like this.
What is Instant Vs Delayed Gratification?
Some activities we engage in gives us immediate results in form of pleasure or satisfaction; you get the benefit of this activity quickly after or while doing it, like getting likes on Instagram, doing drugs, or spending away from your income on merry-making. These are said to give instant gratification. But the feeling of satisfaction doesn’t last.
On the other hand, there are activities that you will have to wait to get the result. You do a task and you don’t receive the full benefit – or sometimes any immediate benefit – of that task until a delayed period of time; like learning new skills, routine exercising, or investing your money instead of buying those designer wears.
Generally, Instant gratification feels good at the moment; it feels good as you do it because your brain releases dopamine – our feel good hormones. But shortly after, the pleasure feeling goes away like nothing even happened.
Delayed gratification, on the other hand, often feels unpleasant at the moment; it’s often more boring and difficult to do. But the benefit can last over a long period of time. For example, when I had the money to buy a new car, I chose instead to invest that money in a friend’s business. Today, because of that investment, I don’t worry about paying rent because the interest I earn from the business takes care of my rent. Buying a new car would have been more exciting and feel good at the moment. But this feeling would only last for a few weeks. Investing the money didn’t feel exciting. In fact, it was a risky and uncomfortable decision. But the pleasure that followed years later has continued to serve me.
The Cost of Delayed and Instant Gratification
Let’s take some lessons on gratification from the black community in the United States. The wealth inequality between the whites and the blacks in the US is often attributed to long periods of slavery and racism. Black slaves didn’t have an inheritance to pass on to their children. Hence whites are centuries ahead of blacks in wealth possession. So what has the present generation been doing about this? How has the black community been collectively working towards lifting itself out of poverty with their money habits?
According to Nielsen’s research, despite being about 13 percent of the US population, black people spend about 85% of the nation’s total annual retail spending. Blacks are more aggressive consumers of media, shop more frequently, watch more TV, and purchase more ethnic beauty products than any other ethnic group. However, only 2 percent of their money goes to black-owned businesses… This means that for every 50 dollars the average black person spends, only 1 dollar is spent on a black-owned business.
Another study puts this in perspective; for every dollar earned, it is likely to circulate 30 days in the Asian community, 20 days in the Jewish Community, 17 days in the white community. But in the black community, it stays for just 6 hours. That means these people are working hard to enrich other communities. Once an average black person gets a huge chunk of money, they want to patronize a designer’s store, high-end mall, or car dealer for instant gratification. Saving or investing in things that will last or that could make more money down the line rarely makes their priority list.
To understand the consequences of this default behavior towards money, a study demonstrated that if black consumers spend 10 percent more of their income in black businesses; it will generate one million jobs for African Americans. But the need to gratify immediate pleasure with known brands makes it difficult to adjust this habit.
… the wealth gap continues to widen while the blame goes to slavery and racism. Looking from this perspective, you can see the long term devastating effect of choosing instant gratification over delayed gratification.
Too many people tend to only worry about the things they can buy at the moment and forget the need to build for the future. Wealth may not be everything, but it can get you better opportunities for education and a better environment for your children to develop into well-functioning members of society.
You have probably heard about the marshmallow experiment. If you haven’t, I’ll recommend you search and read about it once you are done watching this video. In a nutshell, it’s an experiment that demonstrated that kids who develop the ability to defer gratification are more likely to be successful in life than kids that don’t have the ability.
It may be hard to maintain discipline over your finance; but do you know what is harder – having to live a life of regret of missed opportunities. In the words of Jim Rohn, “we must all suffer from one of two pains; the pain of discipline or the pain of regret.” If you do what is easy, your life will be hard. If you do what is hard your life will be easy.
How to develop your ability to delay gratification
Here are three things you can do to improve your ability to delay gratification.
Find a Balance
It’s not that activities that provide instant gratification are bad. You need social media to interact with friends and promote your business or service. You need to engage in leisure activities from time to time. We need to work as much as we need to relax and play. Also, life is best lived when you have something to be obsessed about. The problem is when these instant gratifying activities become your obsession like my jolly friend. Considering the cost of indulging this temporary gratification, you have to find a balance by developing self-control. You have to choose your obsession deliberately.
Put a Distance Between You and Your Temptation
I have learned that self-control is a function of lack of exposure; that is, you have to limit or outrightly remove yourself from the thing you are tempted to indulge in. One way I go about this is that once I’m getting addicted to an activity that only serves for instant gratification, I find a way to get rid of it. I’ve done that for social media, and football fanaticism. I recently deleted all social media apps on my phone once I noticed I was spending an unhealthy amount of time on them. For now, YouTube and Whatsapp are the only social app on my phone. I only have the option of visiting these social media websites on my laptop when it’s necessary. I did the same for football fanaticism and went from an ardent Man U fan to football apathy.
If you want to quit smoking, stop going to places you normally go to smoke or hanging out with smokers. If you have an unhealthy relationship with money, make it harder to use reach your money by creating a separate savings account without a debit card attached to it. The reason is that, no matter how strong-willed you may think you are, your environment has more control over you than you may think. To strengthen your self-control, you have to eliminate exposure to temptation until you develop apathy for that thing.
Improve Self Control by Focusing on the Future
Another method you should add to your strategy with improving your ability to delay gratification is to focus on the long term consequences of your behavior. If you are struggling to quit smoking, for example, when you feel the urge to smoke, imagine yourself in the future and think about your doctor announcing to your family that you have lung cancer. Imagine the look on your child’s face. Suddenly the cigarette will begin to seem less appealing.
I’ll close with this quote by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. “A man who cannot command himself will always be a slave” If you choose to run with your emotion and desire for immediate pleasure, you’ll always be a slave. Command yourself to choose what is right for you, even if it brings the least pleasure at the moment. It’ll pay in the long run. Until next time, YOUR SUCCESS MATTERS!